Showing posts from March, 2012

Look! Over There! Misdirecting the Reader While Still Playing Fair

This week, I've been revising Proposal Interrupted, a project I'm very excited about. Initially, I'd been thinking of it as the sort of suspense where the reader knows the identity of the bad guy almost from page one yet gnaws his/her fingernails trying to see whether the likable (I hope) protagonist will clap on in time to survive the novel.

After getting some shrewd editorial feedback and realizing that would be boring (to me) to write, I'm making it a mystery/suspense instead, with several viable suspects vying for attention. The trick, in revising, is to obfuscate the original clues, diverting the reader's attention with bright, shiny, noisy competing information. (I call this my "Look! Over there!" technique.) Whenever possible, it works well to "sandwich" the real clues between false leads, since the human brain naturally pays closer attention to the first and last details than those tucked inside like so much lettuce.

As Yoda might say: …

Do You Love It Enough? Thought for the Day

“Neither a lofty degree of intelligence nor imagination nor both together go to the making of genius. Love, love, love, that is the soul of genius.”
--Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

Ask yourself, Do I love whatever I am doing enough to make it my life's work? If not, keep searching until you find your passion.

Life's too short to waste merely going through the motions.

Big Giant BtO Newsflash:Barbara Sissel's 2-Book Deal!

It's been so hard for me to contain myself, but it's finally official. BtO's own Barbara Taylor Sissel has scored big.

Check out the Publisher's Marketplace announcement:

Barbara Taylor Sissel's EVIDENCE OF LIFE, about a woman caught in a web of lies after her husband and daughter go missing during a camping trip to the Texas Hill Country, challenging everything she believes about her family and her life, to Erika Imranyi at Mira, in a two-book deal, at auction, by Barbara Poelle at Irene Goodman Agency (World English).

I've always know my long-time critique partner and very good friend was prodigiously talent, but now, she's officially a force to be reckoned with!

Congratulations, Barbara! We're celebrating with you!

True Spring in the Writer's Heart

Late this past August, as I was excitedly working on a much-loved "secret" project, I received a call from my agent and a very welcome offer on a pair of books for my current publisher. The catch? I needed to write them very quickly to make the publication slots that were being held for me. So for the past six or seven months, I've been pedal-to-the-metal writing these two books, the not-so-secret project relegated to the back of the already-quite-crowded closet. (I call it my "future file," and it's jam-packed with half-baked ideas, half-complete proposals, and rejected projects I hope to attack from another angle and give a second chance.)

But I can tell you, the secret project did not go quietly. For months, it's been struggling to flap its way free, as the strongest of ideas often will. Casting itself in my mind as a glittering, gold-feathered (with diamonds for eyes!) bird in the bush, it fluttered at the edges of my consciousness, distracting me …

Riding the Giant Sand Worm (OR "An indie author's relationship with Amazon")

At SXSW last week, someone said something to me about morally ambiguous authors crawling into bed with Amazon. This was the best analogy I could come up with to describe how I feel:

The Decemberists "One Engine" from Hunger Games


Ibsen plots a revolution

"I'm plotting revolution against this lie that the majority has a monopoly of the truth. What are these truths that always bring the majority rallying around? Truths so elderly that they are practically senile. And when a truth is as old as that, gentlemen, you can hardly tell it from a lie."
Henrik Ibsen

Portrait of Ibsen by Edvard Munch

Flogging Molly covers Dylan's "The Times They Are a-Changing"

Apply as needed to publishing and life.

Blues Bros approach to indie publishing: Shake Your Tail Feather

PW was tweeting live and collaborative notes were emerging on hackpad during a panel discussion on indie publishing at SXSW earlier this week. I was happy to see the notes reflect the most important point I made during the whole discussion:

"What sells a book sells a book, same in traditional or self-publishing. You gotta shake your tail feathers."

Ask That

My husband, wonderful man, asks questions.  He collects stories.  He loves to listen to you.  He is not, by choice, a writer.  He's simply very curious, and attentive; and he would much rather speak to you about something moving and unexpected than about something dull and plainsong.  This is why, sitting down to dinner with my parents this week--we hadn't seen them in quite some time--he turned to my mother, and rather than intoning "pass the salt" or "let's have a moment of silence" or "how was your flight," he looked her in the eye and smiled and began with,

"Now.  Tell me a powerful moment from your childhood.  Don't think about it.  Just share the first thing that comes into your mind.  What is it?"

"The smell of tin."


After a moment's surprise, and a pause, she said,

"Tin!  It's tin in the sun."

She went on:

"I'm very little.  This is the first house I can remember.…

The Visiting Writer

Quite often, I find myself in a position known as that of the "Visiting Writer."  I have to admit, I have a fondness for the title.  It seems so deliciously appropriate.  What is a writer if not a visitor?  One who arrives, looks around, settles in, makes herself temporarily at home; then tries to find out as much as she can about her surroundings and the characters in them, observing, chatting, teasing, asking, touring, wondering, inserting, pondering; she tries, amazed, eager, hungry, to register, to record, to remember, remember, remember and keep vivid, make real, begin to understand; she may fall in love, develop decided opinions, nurse occasional antipathies, feel foolish, ungainly, rude, clumsy, tongue-tied--what form of the verb does one use here?--then slowly, or sometimes quickly, she strikes out, strikes in, makes friends, makes discoveries, embarrasses herself, triumphs over a looming obstacle, envisions an ending, doesn't want to leave, doesn&#…

What does an author do with an ugly baby?

A few weeks ago, I put it out there to the universe: "Does this book cover suck?" The answer was a resounding "Yup."

Urg. The backstory on this book cover is fraught. Though I have a bit of graphic arts background and a lot of experience in book cover brainstorming, I didn't want to trust myself. I had it designed by a *real* designer. I hated the result, so I threw some good money after bad and had it redesigned. Then I decided to cut my losses and re-redesign it myself.

When I put all the covers side by side in front of a few trusted advisors (without telling them which ones were designed by me and which were the low-priced-and-you-get-what-you-pay-for *real* designers), they unanimously picked the two designed by me.

I went with the image of a dopler radar view of Hurricane Katrina in infrared technicolor splendor and launched the book with a not inexpensive ad campaign earlier this year. (Thanks for the birthday bucks, Mom! Wish I'd used the money to com…

Gabriel García Márquez, Love in the Time of Cholera

Some words are just too too wonderful.

“To him she seemed so beautiful, so seductive, so different from ordinary people, that he could not understand why no one was as disturbed as he by the clicking of her heels on the paving stones, why no one else's heart was wild with the breeze stirred by the sighs of her veils, why everyone did not go mad with the movements of her braid, the flight of her hands, the gold of her laughter. He had not missed a single one of her gestures, not one of the indications of her character, but he did not dare approach her for fear of destroying the spell.”
Gabriel García Márquez, Love in the Time of Cholera


Congratulations to BtO's Own Barbara Taylor Sissel!

Raising my head from the deadline cave to bid a very hearty congratulations to BtO blogster Barbara Taylor Sissel, who just signed with Barbara Poelle of the Irene Goodman Agency!

For those of you who don't yet know her, Barbara Sissel writes beautifully-crafted, issue-oriented women's fiction. She's also one of the best critique partners on the planet, with a keen editorial eye and finely-tuned sense of what works and what doesn't in a story.

You can check out her latest novel, The Volunteer, on Amazon.

Best wishes for a long and fruitful partner with your new agent, Bobbi!

Gary's Chevy SSR and the definition of practical

I won't lie; I teared up when Gary signed the papers for this Chevy SSR yesterday.

"Your wife is more excited than you are," the salesman marveled. "Usually it's the guy who's crying 'cause the wife won't go for it."

It wasn't an impulse purchase; it was the sudden and unexpected realization of a dream he's had for years. He's wanted one since they came out in 2004. Priced and looked and Googled them a thousand times.

In Bald in the Land of Big Hair, my memoir about how I got my first book published while undergoing chemotherapy for non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, I wrote a lot about Gary's dedication to our family and his role as my Rock of Gibraltar co-survivor. My favorite review of the book called it "a love letter to an extraordinary caregiver." And the book doesn't begin to cover how he's stood behind me through the feast and famine of my career as an author.

Beyond the basic fact that Gary deserves this -- and he…